About the Project
The 'Childhoods and Play' project has British Academy Research Project Status from 2012 - 2017. Further information about this status can be found here. The project focuses on the archival collection of Iona and Peter Opie relating to the play and cultural traditions of children (information about this resource can be found on the 'About the Collection' section of this website). The project aims to make the entire collection available for the first time by creating a digital resource which brings it together via a common search interface on a website. The website will serve a diverse audience, including academics across a range of disciplines (developmental psychology, folklore and ethnology, cultural and social anthropology, social, cultural and local history, childhood studies, sociology, cultural studies, child psychology, play theory, playwork, language and dialect, literature, music education and ethnomusicology), educationalists and the general public. The website will include:
- Search facilities
- User guides for various audiences
- A bibliography relating to the work of the Opies, their collection and the current project
- Information on the historical context of the collections
- A crowdsourcing interface for the purpose of creating metadata.
The current project builds on three previous projects. As part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council Beyond Text large project entitled 'Children's Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age' (2009 - 2011), the Opies' sound recordings were digitised, catalogued and made accessible via the British Library Archival Recordings website. Excerpts were also made available via a complementary educational website, Playtimes: A Century of Children's Games and Rhymes.
A subsequent project resulted in the development of a finding aid for the Opie papers at the Bodleian Libraries and a report on the collection which focuses on its potential for digitisation and linking to the digitised sound recordings. This was a University of Sheffield knowledge transfer project, funded by the HEFCE Rapid Response Fund (HEIF4) in 2011.
A further project entitled A Study of the Relationship between Media, Commercial Markets and Children's Play in the UK between 1950 and 2011 took place in 2011 - 2012, funded by the British Academy. Two researchers from the University of Sheffield conducted an analysis of letters submitted by children at two schools to the Opie surveys and undertook oral history interviews with some of the original contributors and others who attended the schools during the 1950s and 1960s, in order to explore the influence of media and the market on children's play. It also enabled the piloting of methodological approaches to the tracing of the original contributors to the Opies' collection through the use of social networking sites.
Resources from these three previous projects can be accessed from the 'Resources' page of this website.
Project Director: Professor Jackie Marsh, University of Sheffield
Project Co-Directors: Dr Julia Bishop, University of Sheffield and Professor Andrew Burn, Institute of Education, University of London
The project has a steering group which meets two or three times a year, and an Advisory Board. The membership of each is as follows:
- Julia Bishop, University of Sheffield
- Andrew Burn, Institute of Education
- Chris Fletcher, Bodleian Libraries
- Mike Heaney, Independent Advisor
- Jackie Marsh, University of Sheffield (Chair)
- Caroline Oates, Folklore Society
- Michael Popham, Bodleian Libraries